By Lisa Zengarini
The Brazilian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CNBB) has invited the faithful to join a National Day of Prayer on February 2, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas Day), asking the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Joseph to intercede in the ongoing fight against Covid-19.
“The aim is to ask God to nurture our hope and give us courage in facing the pandemic,” said the Secretary General of the CNBB, Bishop Portella Amado.
Light of hope
"Keep alight the light of hope” is the motto chosen for the Day of Prayer.
Catholics are invited to light a candle and to place it outside by a window when the night falls, as a symbolic gesture of hope and communion.
The faithful can also share photographs of their candle on social media with the hashtag #LuzdaEsperança. “The idea is that, even if small, the light radiates to other people as a sign of hope”, the Bishop said.
The Day is celebrated at a national and local level, and the events, which include prayers and reflections, will be broadcast partly on television, partly on social media.
Events during the Day of Prayer
It kicks off at 9 am, local time, with a Mass in the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy of Belo Horizonte (State of Minas Geiras), presided over by the local Archbishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo, President of the CNBB.
It will be followed by an online seminar which will offer reflections on the spiritual sources of encouragement in times of pandemic.
At 7 pm the Rosary will be broadcast from the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. The Day will end at 9 pm with the Night Prayer in the Chapel of Our Lady of Aparecida at the CNBB headquarters in Brasilia.
New variant, worsening crisis
Brazil remains one of the worst-hit countries by Covid-19, with over 9.2 million cases and over 225,000 deaths.
A variant called P.1, which emerged in early December in Manaus, caused a massive resurgence in cases in January, pushing the health system in the capital of Brazil's Amazonas State to collapse.
In mid-January the Archbishop Leonardo Steiner of Manaus launched a dramatic appeal for oxygen supplies in the State. Pope Francis immediately responded to the appeal with a donation.
Over the last months Brazilian Bishops have called on the federal government to enact a more effective response and stricter measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has always denied the seriousness of the pandemic and refused stricter protective measures.